PARIS — “I think it’s every designer’s dream to eventually have a fragrance,” Jack McCollough mused on Thursday, a day after he and Lazaro Hernandez inked a fragrance deal with L’Oréal for their Proenza Schouler brand.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While no specific date has been set to release a first women’s fragrance, the designers confessed to certain olfactory leanings.

“We like musky things, [fragrances] that feel ambery or woody. I don’t know if that is necessarily going to translate into a women’s scent, but I think it could,” McCollough said during an interview at the plush George V hotel here. “I don’t think a woman wants to smell like a gentleman’s cigar room, but there are other notes that are like those earthy, woody, ambery kind of scents that I think could cross over. And those are [what] we are very much attracted to.”

Nathalie Duran, international general manager of L’Oréal Designer Brands Fragrances, who will work with them on the project, said there’s no need to be rushed by the clock, characterizing the new license as “a great opportunity.”

You May Also Like

Proenza Schouler, she said, represents “another way to define luxury. It’s another way to define women. There is a lot of innovation without trying. It’s just almost natural innovation; there’s an ease, and at the same time it’s honed. There is a combination of cultures. It is not only American. It’s universal, so it really fits what L’Oréal believes in.”

Proenza Schouler will be part of the division that includes Diesel, Maison Margiela and Cacharel. Viktor & Rolf – its latest addition – is this year celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first scent, the blockbuster Flowerbomb.

Here, McCollough and Hernandez shared some of their initial thoughts on entering the beauty category.

WWD: Why is now the right time for a scent?

Jack McCollough: The problem with fragrance is you can’t really approach the L’Oréals of the world and be like: “We really want to do a fragrance. Let’s do something together.” You kind of just have to sit around and wait and hope that one of the big guys will come knocking on your door. That’s literally what happened. Out of nowhere, L’Oréal approached us and we had a big meeting. They came over to our showroom, we showed them our collections, had a dinner and it was like an instant love affair in a lot of ways.

Lazaro Hernandez: It was really serendipitous.

J.M.: It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. A fragrance…feels like you’ve made it, in a way, as a designer.

WWD: What are other lures of fragrance?

L.H.: It is like this mysterious kind of beast to us. It’s super fascinating – its emotional quality, its ability to evoke memories and set a mood. It’s just such an abstract sense. We’re so used to working with the sense of sight. Obviously, it’s what we do every day with the ad campaigns, shows and all that. To be able to work on a completely different sense is really interesting, even on a creative level. We’re just psyched to start working with the noses and playing around. It’s going to be so much fun.

J.M.: All the senses are interesting to us. They’re something very related to what we already do, so to apply that toward this new medium is really exciting.

L.H.: It’s going to be interesting to talk about our woman and identify the notes that relate to that and what notes together create the definition of who our woman is.

WWD: What sort of perfume are you envisioning?

J.M.: I don’t want to jump ahead of ourselves … [but I would imagine our fragrance] is a mélange of things. Because that’s very much what our brand is about. There are so many different things that can be mixed together to create something new.

WWD: Do you wear scent?

J.M.: I wear scented lotions sometimes.

L.H.: I wear oils. I once went to this retreat in Mexico, which was — I guess — our first foray into fragrance. At the end of the [stay], you went to a room with a yogi. There was an entire huge shelf with all these random, obscure oils and [we] created this really specific oil. I have forgotten what’s in it, but it would be interesting actually to show it to some of the noses at L’Oréal. This was years ago, and I still wear that oil.

WWD: What else is exciting about your first fragrance?

L.H.: It will be interesting to create the bottle. Obviously, the juice is one of the most important elements, but it will be fun to create a sculpture in a way — this sort of glass object that is going to last the test of time. We have no idea what that is going to be. I love fragrance bottles, [they] are such beautiful objects.

J.M.: Even the ad campaign — who’s the girl and the marketing that goes behind that is going to be interesting. It’s all got to kind of capture the same mood. It’s going to be an exciting challenge.

L.H.: To find that one person — whether it’s a model, an actress, whatever — that completely fits the codes we are talking about is going to be a fun project.

J.M.: [The person also must] reach a broader audience. They’ve got to fill a lot of needs in a lot of ways.

WWD: How do you picture your fragrance consumer?

J.M.: What makes us sometimes sad about what we do right now is that it’s not available to so many people. It’s still a niche kind of customer. We’ve done better with the bags because it’s a better price point in a way and something with more function that can be used every day. So I think a fragrance is a product that is even more democratic. It would be nice to reach a broader audience.

L.H.: It’s going to be amazing to one day know that my little cousins can walk into any department store and be able to buy something Proenza Schouler for the first time with their own money. That’s not [what] they’re able to do right now. So yeah, it’s going to be really a sort of emotional, really great experience.

WWD: What knowledge of the fashion business will be helpful for fragrance?

L.H.: Whenever we’ve been successful with anything, when we did a first collection, when we did our first bags – they were successful because they were antitrend. They went completely against what the norm was at the time. And those have been learning experiences for us. So maybe we’ll apply some of those lessons to fragrance, to just do your own thing.

J.M.: I think the approach really should be to try to create something that feels completely integral to our brand, what we do and is really true to us – not try to follow the past as to what’s done well, what’s not done well. [We should] just try to create something that feels really special and new. I think people respond to that.

WWD: What about men’s?

J.M.: In general for the brand? Yes, for sure. We’re talking about the idea of possibly men’s down the line as a next step. We don’t want to be limited to just being a women’s brand, but you know — one step at a time. We’ve always been very organic; we do things as they happen. If the opportunity presents itself, then we’ll take it. If it doesn’t, we won’t. There’s no rush.

WWD: There has been speculation about contenders looking to invest in your company – most recently Castanea Partners.

L.H.: No comment on that front right now.

WWD: Back to scent, what’s the first step for you?

J.M.: I think we’ll put some images together, maybe even pieces of clothing that we’ve made from our favorite collections, scents that we wear, things that are extremely personal to us. I would love to even just smell every scent that exists, if one of [L’Oréal’s] noses could just educate us on every kind of scent available – just to understand.

It’s like you have to learn how to draw formally and figuratively before you can go off and start doing abstraction. It feels like a new chapter in our careers right now.

L.H.: It’s a huge new chapter – exciting.